Trafficking in Persons Report 2012 - Iceland

ICELAND (Tier 1)

Iceland is a destination and transit country for women subjected to forced prostitution. Some reports maintain Iceland also may be a destination country for men and women who are subjected to conditions of forced labor in the restaurant and construction industries. Female victims of human trafficking in Iceland come from Eastern Europe, Russia, Africa, and Brazil. These victims may stay for several months before being trafficked onward, while others may spend only a few days in Reykjavik before moved abroad. Authorities suspect the involvement of organized crime in trafficking.

The Government of Iceland fully complies with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking. The Icelandic government increased the maximum criminal penalty for human trafficking offenses from eight years of imprisonment to 12 years, a penalty that obliges Icelandic police to hold human trafficking suspects in pre-trial detention without bail. The government provided funding for a new shelter to aid the long-term reintegration of trafficking victims that opened in September 2011. During the year, victim identification became a core part of the curriculum at the national police college, and NGOs reported victims were more knowledgeable about available services due to the Icelandic police following formal guidelines for victim identification created in 2010. Nevertheless, the number of victims identified dropped this year and no cases were prosecuted. The Government of Iceland continued to develop a public awareness campaign, which it had not yet launched at the time of this report.

Recommendations for Iceland: Vigorously investigate, prosecute, and convict trafficking offenders; continue to formalize victim identification and care procedures for all care providers; expand training on proactive identification and referral of victims to prosecutors, labor inspectors, and health officials; conduct an awareness and prevention campaign focused on both sex and labor trafficking and the demand for both forms of trafficking; provide specialized training to the national emergency hotline operators on responding to trafficking calls; and consider establishing a hotline for reporting suspected instances of human trafficking.


The Government of Iceland strengthened its legal framework on human trafficking during the reporting period, though it did not initiate any prosecutions or convict any trafficking offenders. Iceland prohibits both sex and labor trafficking under Article 227a of its criminal code. In June 2011, the Icelandic parliament passed legislation that raised the maximum penalty for human trafficking, prescribed by Article 227a, from eight years of imprisonment to 12 years, which is sufficiently stringent and commensurate with penalties prescribed for other serious crimes such as rape. The stricter penalty enables police and prosecutors to hold human trafficking suspects during pre-trial detention, which government officials had noted prior to the new legislation as an obstacle in criminal trafficking investigations. Police conducted two trafficking investigations during the reporting period, the same number of investigations initiated in the previous year. However, one of the investigations did not produce evidence sufficient for prosecution; the other was ongoing at the time of this report. Icelandic authorities did not initiate any other trafficking prosecutions during the reporting period, nor did they achieve any convictions. Last year, they similarly did not initiate any prosecutions nor convict any trafficking offenders. The Government of Iceland’s Specialist and Coordination Team for Human Trafficking coordinated law enforcement efforts as well as other inter-governmental anti-trafficking projects. Due to government budgetary constraints in the wake of the country’s economic crisis, resources for overall law enforcement shrank, which included a reduction in the total number of police officers. Several reports from NGOs suggested that the police could be more vigorous in initiating human trafficking investigations. The government did not report the investigation, prosecution, conviction, or sentencing of any government official allegedly complicit in trafficking. Icelandic authorities continued to hold classes for students at the national police college on recognizing victims; investigating human trafficking issues will become a core part of the curriculum at the college in 2012. The police have also received “passenger analysis” training that they employ at the airports to assist in identification of potential trafficking victims. Additionally, the government has sent senior Keflavik International Airport officials and border police to anti-trafficking courses abroad, for example at the European Police Academy, as well as to conferences on human trafficking sponsored by OSCE and the Nordic Council of Ministers.


The Icelandic government sustained robust efforts to protect trafficking victims, yet victim identification efforts showed need for improvement. The government granted the equivalent of $79,100 to an NGO that opened a long-term shelter in September 2011 for women who were victims of trafficking or who have been in prostitution and are making an effort to transition to a different life. The shelter has a capacity for housing four to six women. The government allocated the equivalent of an additional $345,000 to a domestic violence shelter that was available to house trafficking victims. Victims of trafficking were permitted to leave the shelters unchaperoned and at will. The government did not offer male trafficking victims specialized services, though they had access to general social services. In cases involving unaccompanied children, municipal and state child protection services are responsible for assistance. The government offered free health care and legal aid to all trafficking victims, though it is not known how many victims accepted this assistance during the year. Trafficking victims regularly used psychological services offered through a government-supported NGO. The Government of Iceland offered both short- and long-term residency permits for victims of trafficking: a six-month reflection period to foreigners if there was suspicion that they were victims of trafficking and a second one-year renewable permit for victims who cooperated with law enforcement or who found themselves in compelling circumstances, such as facing retribution or hardship in their home countries. During the reporting period, the government did not grant any new permits to victims, although it extended a temporary residence permit for one victim. Victims can obtain a work permit to seek legal employment while in temporary residency status. During the previous reporting period, the National Police Commissioner published formal rules of procedure for identifying, contacting, and caring for suspected victims of trafficking. The Government of Iceland identified three trafficking victims during the reporting period, compared to six victims in the previous year and three victims two years ago. The government provided direct assistance to two victims during the reporting period and a third victim refused an offer of government assistance. NGOs reported identifying three to four additional victims of trafficking. The government reported that no trafficking victims were detained, fined, or jailed for unlawful acts committed as a result of their being trafficked. The government encouraged victims to participate in the investigation of trafficking.


The Icelandic government made some progress in its efforts to prevent human trafficking during the reporting period. Although there were no specific anti-trafficking awareness campaigns in Iceland during the year, the government continued to develop a comprehensive campaign to launch later in 2012. In public appearances by senior officials, the government continued to recognize that trafficking remained a problem in the country. The government coordinated its anti-trafficking activities through its anti-trafficking team, and reported its progress to complete all steps of its 2009-2012 National Action Plan by year’s end. The government continued to provide funds for field projects via OSCE, which, in this reporting period, contributed to a special course on human trafficking at Moscow State University, provided anti-trafficking financial assistance to the Government of Belarus for a project administered by the Icelandic Red Cross, and helped fund the Council of the Baltic Sea States’ Task Force on Trafficking in Human Beings. The Government of Iceland continued to take steps to reduce the demand for commercial sex acts by convicting one client of prostitution during the reporting period.

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